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Dog’s Birthday Celebration

July 31, 2020

As they pawed through the halls of Children’s Hospital of Georgia on Thursday in colorful bandannas and jamming to peppy music, compassionate canine companions Nugget and Casey celebrated their birthdays doing what they do best: bringing smiles to the facility’s young patients.

Nugget will be five Aug. 19 and Casey turned three July 15. The two golden retrievers led a celebratory-birthday parade through the hospital’s fifth-floor unit dressed in unicorn horns, birthday bandannas, and silver balloons of the numbers ‘three’ and ‘five.’ Employees guided the dogs from room to room, pulling a wagon of treats and surprises for both the birthday girls and the patients.

Nugget and Casey’s full time job are as service dogs trained to work at the hospital, according to child life specialists and facility dog handlers Harleigh Smith and Macie Meeks. They were trained by Canine Assistants, a non-profit organization in Alpharetta, and have been at Children’s Hospital since November 2017 and March 2019 respectively.

The two serve as support for both the patients and the staff in many different areas such as gatroenterology, pulmonology, surgery and cancer.

“Nugget and I spend our mornings in outpatient clinics,” Smith said. “We help our oncology patients while they’re hanging out getting chemo, along with our hematology patients when they’re hanging out getting blood products.”

“Casey and I spend our mornings in the OR,” Meeks said. “We help kids get ready for surgery and just feel a little bit more prepared…and then we spend our time on the fifth floor in the in-patient surgery unit as well so that kids can get some puppy lovin’ upstairs as well while they’re recovering.”

For patients like Kinsley Mullins, 16, this event and the dogs being celebrated is a positive light on their road to recovery.

“It’s the best part of being here, ’cause I love dogs, so [they] just come in, they always have a smile on their face,” Kinsley said. “It makes me happy to see them.”

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